That blessing, however, has meant that Matusow has spent the last half century trying to make up for his part in the Red Scare of the 50s. "You can do good things your whole life," he says, "and then do one bad thing, and people never forgive you. They never let you forget it."
After his release from prison, he lived as an expatriate in London and France and resided on both coasts of the United States and everywhere between, finally landing in the quiet Mormon town of Glenwood, Utah. Matusow met his first Mormons in Washington, D.C during the late 40s. Duly impressed with their religion and way of life, he converted from Judaism to Mormonism in 1954. During the McCarthy hearings, he says he wanted nothing more than to settle in Utah with a nice Mormon wife, although it would take him almost fifty years to achieve half of that goal. But these days in Glenwood, he is so respected in the community that hes allowed to wear his yarmulke into the Mormon ward house.
It was the calm haven of Glenwood that allowed him to found Sevier County Access Television, or SCAT-TV, which he still operates under the umbrella of the Ghandi Peace Centre. The Center is so named because the house and the property were a gift to Job from the Ghandi family (Yogesh and Job have done nonviolence work together for several decades). It includes the public access station, an informal animal adoption program, housing for anyone who finds him/herself at loose ends, a program to supply food and clothing to Indian reservations and a prisoner outreach program. This is also where Job makes his "peace bells," which he forges from melted-down munitions shells and bullet casings, with a few aluminum cans mixed in for proper texture.
But the most important component of the Centre is the public access station, whose motto is, "Its not Hollywoodits Glenwood!" SCAT-TV broadcasts a variety of material, including fractal patterns accompanied by nature sounds, and Jobs non-violent childrens variety program, "Magic Mouse Magazine." When Job hosts the show, he becomes "Cockyboo the Clown." He pops out his dentures and dresses in raggedy hobo clothes, including a sprung-out top hat and an oversized clown nose.
"Magic Mouse" is unusual not only because it is non-commercial and non-violent but also because the shows namesake never appears. This is because Mouse is a euphemism for the Holy Ghost, though that is never stated implicitly. (The programs intro states that Mouse lives in Angelville, is too small to be seen and is neither a boy nor a girl.) Other programming includes public access shows produced around the country, such as "The Wright Bros." from Maine (modeled on the Marx brothers), "The Rudy Poo Kids" from Iowa City and "Doggie Machine," a bit where Job follows his little dogs around the yard and then sets the footage to music. So far, the show has won two Hometown Video Awardsthe Oscar of public access television.
"Mouse" also boasts the only TV guest appearance by His Holiness, The Dalai Lama. Before moving to Utah, Job lived in Arizona, and when His Holiness stopped through to give a lecture, Job dressed up as Cockyboo, found his way to the Dalai Lamas hotel and waited for him outside a mens room. Though the Dalai Lama didnt speak a word of English, Job won out with the universal language of a red sponge clown nose.
"He came out of the bathroom," Job says, "turned and looked at me, and doubled over laughing. Then he pointed to his nose, and did this" Job demonstrates an over-exaggerated nose-honking gesture. "That was what crossed the language barrier." After their encounter outside the bathroom, it wasnt too hard to convince His Holiness to make a quick stop at Magic Mouse Studios.
Though Matusow has created the first national forum for public access ("Mouse" is shown across the country), his dream is to establish a chain of public-access cable stations across Western America and the Plains. Ideally, this could be achieved by convincing a cable network to pick up "Mouse." If his track record is any indication, he may be surfing the edge of the next big cultural revolution.
"The real story of the West has yet to be told," he says. "All we have is the cheap, dime-store pulp paperback version. The families who settled here, who started communities and churchesits time for them to tell their story, and public access will allow them to do that."
Job tells me this as we sit in the cafeteria of the VA Hospital. He is here for his six-month checkup, and we have a lot of running around to dobut not on empty stomachs. A group of pink-clad volunteer nurses smile at us from the next table, and the walls are decorated with childrens drawings of the American Flag. Most of the patients here are WWII vets, and compared to Job, they are much worse for the wearconfined to wheelchairs or dragging oxygen tanks behind them. They are clean-shaven, sport baseball caps or cowboy hats and very thick glasses. Matusow wears overalls and a springy Santa beard. Though he also has spectacles, the prescription looks like its the weakest in the room. And his hat is a navy blue gentlemans cap, the type you see a lot on British sitcoms. The biggest difference, though, is in his face; there is no resignation there. His eyes crackle like sparklers.
"So why does all this stuff happen to you?" I ask him. Its something Ive wondered about for a long time. "I believe that its mystical," he tells me. "Guidance from the other side." For what purpose? Job doesnt rightly know himself. He thinks that it might be because he is attuned to things of the spirit. He remembers, he says, the day when he realized his life might be a little out of the ordinary; he was "not yet two," and his teenage aunts were babysitting him at a family picnic in Bear Mountain Park, just outside New York City. When they slacked on their duties, he decided to play a prank on them.
"I teleported myself into a tree," he claims with a straight face, "and I just sat in the tree and laughed while everyone looked for me. When I felt like theyd learned their lesson, I teleported myself back down to the blanket. They looked over and said, Hes here!" Job uses a squeaky little voice to imitate his aunts. Though Im scratching my chin while he tells me this, everything else hes told me has turned out to be true, which makes the story a little unsettling.
"All children have that power," he continues, placing a slice of Swiss cheese on a bagel, "Its this society, they bang it out of us. I was too young to know any better. But I just never lost that because I refused to have it pounded out of me."
Refusing to give up that belief in the miraculous may have landed him the role of "Fisherman Number Two" in an episode of the TV series Touched by an Angel. Angelic teleporting abilities aside, he certainly has angelic charm and magnetism. At every stop we make throughout the hospital, people open up to him as if he were a long-lost relative. In the waiting room of the Respiratory Unit, a red-haired woman who is waiting for her husband watches us. Then out of nowhere, she says, "Hey, do you guys want to see something really neat?"
After grabbing a Pulmonary Function Physical History worksheet from a nearby table and running over to sit next to us, she flips it over to the blank side and begins to draw an elaborate diagram, a geometry parable of human nature. Some people are pyramidsrigid and focused. Some are squares, also rigid, but not easily tipped. The circles, she says, are flexible but not as focused. "Those are the artists," Job says, satisfied, "the poets, the ones the world really needs."
I can see that he feels a kinship with circles, though the last shape, the egg shape, seems most like him to me. "These egg-shaped people," the woman says, "have the flexibility of a circle, but they have a yolkthat inner drive, that allows them to accomplish whatever they want, and the outside world cant shake that. They dont listen to anyone else, just that inner yolk." After she leaves, I remark that I am surprised she didnt try to sell us anything. "Shes just excited about what shes learning," Job says kindly. "She wants to share what she knows."
Though I wasnt expecting to see something to top that, Jobs effect on a pugnacious respiratory technician who appears soon after is even more impressive. He grumps and grouches about Jobs unscheduled appointment, until Job asks, "Where are you from, anyway?" "India," the man snaps. "Well, I guessed that," Job replies, "but what state?" The man softens and is positively magnanimous after Job tells him that he runs a Ghandi Peace Centre in Glenwood and reminds him that they have met before. "Ah, yes! I remember youMister Maassow. I will make an exception this time, okay? But only this time."
After he leaves, Job turns to me. "People from India never expect to find a Ghandi Peace Center in Utah," he chuckles. "That always gets em."
It should be obvious by now that Job delights in surprising people, whether he knows them for five minutes or five years. Even after reading stacks of articles, watching "The Stringless Yo-Yo," a documentary about his role in the Red Scare of the 50s, after seeing hours of Magic Mouse Magazine and spending a fair amount of time with him, I find that he is still full of surprises, like the fact that he has been a vegetarian for almost seventy years.
"I went to my mother when I was seven," he tells me, "and said, Mama, God told me that if I was going to love Him, I couldnt eat his animals anymore."
He was also an honored guest at the annual meeting of the Jews Harp Guild last year. Many consider him the worlds finest Jews harp player, and the Guild was delighted to find that Matusow was still alive. "Id become a kind of folk hero to them," he says.
He has released recordings under the name Harvey Matusows Jews Harp Band, including the legendary 60s album, War Between Fats and Thins. Its all Jews harp, though one track features the vocal talents of Leslie Kenton (daughter of jazz musician Stan Kenton), who moonlights on the album as "Margie Swisscheese"a play on Zappas Susie Creamcheese. The title track, as Job describes it, is about a war between "the skinny skinnies of Park Avenue and the fat fatties from Central Park West, where you find the diabetes delis." Job feels that it was one of the most avant-garde albums of the 60s. Although this sounds like a bold claim, the guest book on his Web page features testimonials from music lovers and deejays, including a fellow from Massachusetts who raves that "there is as much delight and good fun to be had in its grooves as any other album of the era one could name..."
Although the guest book is an enlightening and entertaining read, the heart of Jobs site, which was created in tandem with Jobs friend Malcomn Humes, is "The Stringless Yo-Yo: An Autobiographical Experiment" (www.ibiblio.org/mal/MO/matusow/). It can be described as an interactive work-in-progress, but I like Jobs description best: "In the past 50 years," he writes, "there are few things that have happened culturally in the Western world which I have not been part of, or at least on the cutting edge of. My life is a mirror of those yearsand I see this [biography] as an opportunity to share with a younger audience those things that they want to know, not just what I want to tell."
And thats just it; if those who forget history are doomed to repeat it, then Job is our greatest protection against neo-McCarthyist witchhunts and other irreversible cultural mistakes. He is the one who can bear witness and help us remember where the idealism of the 60s really came from, why voluntary vows of poverty and loving thy neighbor are not weak or silly things to do. I guess you could say that hes something of a living national treasure, although most people dont know who he isbut they just might, when the public access thing catches fire and goes.
After the dogs ran around and peed and were herded back into the motor home, I nervously watched as Job started it up. It runs like my carthat is, sporadically. He was heading south to visit the office of Prime Times, a senior citizens newspaper, to pick up copies. He writes a column for it; but this month he is on the cover, posing with the Reverend Sun Myung Moon during his stopover in Utah. Theyre friends, and although most people are leery of "Moonies," Job describes Rev. Moon as "actually very pure of heart." He also had to track down James Brown, a local African-American DJ who features Job on his radio call-in show every morning at 11:00thats who Job was staying with for the night. And he still had other errands on the way home. I was relieved when Job sent me an e-mail from Glenwood a few days later:
Its Midnight Thursday... been home for about an hour... had a marvelous visit with the folks in Spanish Fork who are creating a full-blown city access station. I feel less alone today... the dream of bringing rural arts to TV is exciting for mehaving been BLACKLISTED FOR NEARLY 50 YEARS, finally through public access the blacklist ended, and did so on my terms, my terms as the artist... that's how I feel today...
I can tell you that Job is an artist; he is. He is an egg shape in the grand scheme of human geometry; he is an entrepreneur, a clown, a saint, a visionary and the most childlike 75-year-old I know. I can tell you stories about Billie Holiday advising him to read and write letters for the illiterate prisoners as a way to protect himself in Lewisburg. I can tell how he developed grief psoriasis the day his most beloved wife, Emily, was diagnosed with cancer. I can give you the advice of one visitor to his site, who advises those who want to know who Job really is to "file an FOIA request with the FBI and see what you get on him. You won't believe it." I can tell you about his dogs and his bells and his mobile TV studio. I can list his musical releases, his published books, his journalism credits. I can advise you to visit his online biography and see all this for yourself. But there is just no summing up Job Matusow; hes as elusive as a friendly, whiskered genie who evaporates the second you think youve got him figured out.
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